I have been a Christ follower for more than two decades now and I’d say that for those 20+ years that I have been characterized as a guy who has been “pro-life.” I’ve been someone who says that life begins in the womb and needs to be protected. Our family strongly supports adoption as my wife was adopted at birth. I was pro-life…but few people outside my personal bubble had ever heard me voice it.
That was until last year.
Last year, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam went on a local Virginia radio show to talk about abortion legislation that was moving through the state legislature at the time. In that interview, Gov. Northam describes a third-trimester abortion where a viable baby was delivered. In Northam’s words, “An infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, then the infant would be resuscitated — if that’s what the mother and the family desired — and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
The Governor’s words landed eerily close to home for me. His example conversation was a conversation that was had over me when I was delivered. My life hung in the balance over the next 60 seconds as my delivery room doctor offered up an ominous question:
“Do you want us to let him go?”
Those were the words that welcomed me into the world as that doctor held my armless and lifeless body in his arms. As he assessed me and my situation all he could tell my parents is that I was “not viable.” His best-case scenario would be that even if I could somehow survive I would “never lead a full life.”
I thank God that my parents did not hesitate at what the doctor said. “Do whatever you can do to revive him,” was their simple but strong reply and by God’s grace I lived. And by God’s grace – the medical prophecies of my inviability and my inability to lead a full life unraveled quickly. I look across the landscape of my life and see a whole lot that looks like a “full life.”
I learned to eat and write with my feet. I learned to drive a normal car with my feet. I graduated high school with honors. I am a college graduate. I’ve been married for 14 years and have two precious kids. I lead a ministry that allows me to share the gospel and speak in churches, schools, colleges, pro sports teams and corporations across the nation.
Not bad for someone who was not viable at birth.
Governor Northam’s comments unlocked something in me that I haven’t been able to keep under wraps since. His words echoed over the proclamation of my disposable life and it turned my heart to the families who come face to face with that same conversation. How many families are told that their child is not viable? How many scared moms are told that their child won’t be worth the fight?
They need to hear that their child is precious. Their child is worth it. No disability, diagnosis or prognosis can take away from the value of any child in the womb or out of the womb. We matter and Scripture is clear on that. God made them – and God made me – to display His image in all the world.
Being made in the image of God to display the glory of God (the imago dei) ought to fuel the believer’s vocal defense of image bearers while also leading us to proclaim their value as ascribed by the One who has made them. The imago dei pushes the church towards at least three value statements about any person on this planet.
1) My helpless life matters
Human life begins at conception and that life is worth defending at all costs. No disability or disease hangs an asterisk on the worthiness of that life. From conception, every person is a carefully crafted masterpiece that is formed by the hand of the Father. God has “formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)
Christians recognize the value of the work of God and the Word of God. He stamps His love for every baby in the womb on the fact that he has fashioned them and the fact that He has pronounced His love over them. We are ardently pro-life because we want those babies to have a chance to live the image bearing life that they were made for. In their most vulnerable, in utero state – we will defend their precious life.
2) My life today matters
One of the most vital aspects of both the imago dei and the pro-life movement is that it MUST extend far beyond the bounds of the womb. As we defend the lives of babies in the womb, we must now help their new born lives to walk in their God given, image bearing calling. We must walk beside them and advocate for them because some are put in situations that limit their ability to grow and flourish.
Some like me, are denied opportunities that many take for granted. I was initially denied the opportunity to attend kindergarten at a public school. My parents were told I would be far too hindered to keep up with kids my age. I was denied the opportunity to attend driver’s education as a teen so I could get a driver’s license because there was “no way I could be as capable or safe as someone with hands.” On both occasions, my parents advocated for me all the way to the point of lawsuits to get me access like the other kids my age.
How many others are there out there like me? The script may sound different: “You can’t be a lawyer, don’t you know what neighborhood you’re from? You can’t go to that college, can’t you see your skin tone? You’ll never amount to anything, can’t you see you don’t have any talent?”
Pro-life proponents must also be pro-flourishing proponents. We want to see people live a life that is free of injustice and encumbrances. That’s why James reminds us that “pure and undefiled religion is to visit orphans and widows in their time of affliction.” (James 1:27) Christlikeness is seen in the church when we care for those who have life stacked against them.
3) My spiritual life matters
We can passionately defend a baby’s right to life and we can promote the flourishing of the lives of those who walk the face of the earth. Yet even as we proclaim all that, man is still missing one important person in their life. The person of Jesus Christ.
For the church to be fully pro-life, we must also pay great attention to the good news that brings people from spiritual death to spiritual life. (Romans 6:4) In the person of Christ we see Him as both the light of the world as the ultimate display of hope and also as our very life. He has made us, He will save those who trust Him as Lord and gives us an identity and purpose that comes through living out the God-glorifying mission we were made for. (John 1:4) To be fully pro-life, the believer must be as passionate about saving people from spiritual death as we are in protecting babies from death at the hands of abortion doctors. Lostness is the one issue that will cause someone to pass from this earthly life and to enter eternal torment and punishment. The hope and life that the gospel give is the hope and life that we should be about all day every day. As people of life, let’s be all about sharing the good news.